The Limits of Training Leaders and the Need for Development

Kevin Halloran

Content Specialist, United States
January 27, 2021

Why does leadership development often fail?

According to Mike Myatt, a well-known leadership author, the #1 reason is actually training. Now, as a missions organization that trains pastors to preach God’s Word with God’s heart, let us be clear with what he means.

Myatt suggests that we, “Don’t train leaders,” but rather, “coach them, mentor them, disciple them, and develop them…” In other words, yes, we want to convey information. But we also want those we equip to be critical thinkers that go beyond the information taught to apply it in diverse situations.

Teaching vs. Training vs. Developing

Teaching wants learners to understand the “What” of a certain subject. For us, we want students to know “What the Bible says.”

Training goes a step further, and seeks learners to understand the “How”—“How do I preach a biblically faithful sermon?”

Development goes further still, and takes the “what” and “how” and goes to the most transformative level of knowledge: the “Why”—“Why do let the Bible drive our sermons, use hermeneutical principles, and want to preach the Bible clearly?” Answer: because God speaks through His Word faithfully proclaimed to bring new life and transformation for those who receive it.

The “Why” combines the “what” and the “how” with the underlying mechanisms and motivations that make the “what” worth knowing and the “how” worth doing.

For the men we train, success (or true development) means they will not just be able to teach the books of the Bible they have been trained in, but they will be able to apply core hermeneutical principles to any book of the Bible and faithfully minister the Word in their churches.

Myatt’s article continues, sharing twenty differences between leadership training and leadership development. Myatt seems to overstate his case and thereby paints training in a bad light, but there is something to learn from his emphasis on development.

  1. Training blends to a norm – Development occurs beyond the norm.
  2. Training focuses on technique/content/curriculum – Development focuses on people.
  3. Training tests patience – Development tests courage.
  4. Training focuses on the present – Development focuses on the future.
  5. Training adheres to standards – Development focuses on maximizing potential.
  6. Training is transactional – Development is transformational.
  7. Training focuses on maintenance – Development focuses on growth.
  8. Training focuses on the role – Development focuses on the person.
  9. Training indoctrinates – Development educates.
  10. Training maintains status quo – Development catalyzes innovation.
  11. Training stifles culture – Development enriches culture.
  12. Training encourages compliance – Development emphasizes performance.
  13. Training focuses on efficiency – Development focuses on effectiveness.
  14. Training focuses on problems  – Development focuses on solutions.
  15. Training focuses on reporting lines – Development expands influence.
  16. Training places people in a box – Development frees them from the box.
  17. Training is mechanical – Development is intellectual.
  18. Training focuses on the knowns – Development explores the unknowns.
  19. Training places people in a comfort zone – Development moves people beyond their comfort zones.
  20. Training is finite – Development is infinite.

“If what you desire is a robotic, static thinker – train them. If you’re seeking innovative, critical thinkers – develop them.” —Mike Myatt

A few additional points on the training vs. development distinction (provided by WordPartners staff):

  • Training can be anticipated by a schedule, but development must anticipate the moment.
  • Training can be accomplished through curriculum content—development requires more. You have to know the material better than the curriculum.
  • Training needs a teacher—development needs a coach.

Even though WordPartners uses the word “training” often, we seek to go beyond a mere information dump or static, repeatable process to develop dynamic, servants of the Word who faithfully, clearly, and powerfully proclaim God’s life-giving Word to a lost world.

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